The Real Deal Miami

Lawsuit settlement may put a Brightline station between South Florida and Orlando

Martin County settled its legal fight to prevent Brightline's expansion to Orlando, but Indian River County rejected the settlement and approved more funding for the fight
November 25, 2018 09:30AM

Brightline train crosses the Hillsboro Canal near Deerfield Beach (Credit: David Patch / Toledo Blade)

Martin County settled a lawsuit against passenger train operator Brightline, and terms of the settlement include splitting the cost of building at least one train station.

But Indian County, another plaintiff in the lawsuit, rejected the settlement and opted to spend an additional $1 million in a court fight to block Brightline’s planned expansion from South Florida to Orlando.

An organization opposed to the rail service expansion, Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL), joined Martin County in accepting the settlement.

Martin County commissioners approved the settlement in a special session held Saturday in Stuart, ending a multi-year legal fight that has cost the county approximately $4 million.

Indian County has spent close to $3 million to prevent the expansion of Brightline’s rail service to Orlando, not including the newly authorized $1 million expenditure on legal costs.

Martin County and CARE FL agreed to settlement terms that include safety upgrades along the railroad tracks that Brightline would use to carry passengers to and from Orlando.

Brightline also settled with Martin County in exchange for establishing so-called quiet zones where the passenger train operator would not use horns, helping the county cover rail-related maintenance costs, and increasing boat-navigation guides under railroad bridges.

Other terms of the settlement would require Brightline to cover half the cost of building at least one train station in the Treasure Coast region, which includes Indian, Martin and St. Lucie counties.

Brightline announced Nov. 16 that it will change its name to Virgin Trains because billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group agreed to become a minority investor in the company.

Under the name Virgin Trains USA, the company also filed an S-1 form on Nov. 16 with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell its stock to the public. [Sun-Sentinel]Mike Seemuth